Managing Nausea with Medical Cannabis

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Many of us have experienced an upset stomach once or twice, but for some people, the experience of nausea can be so chronic and extreme that it can begin to negatively impact their quality of life. Sometimes nausea can seemingly pop up on its own for virtually no reason at all and other times nausea can be a symptom of an underlying medical condition. Frequently, nausea can be an unwanted side effect of taking prescription medications. Whether the cause is medicinal or not, chronic nausea can make it difficult for patients to handle their other medical symptoms. The good news is that medical cannabis, also known as medical marijuana, has been found to be an ideal treatment for mild to chronic nausea. 

Though often associated with medical issues such as pregnancy and gastrointestinal disorders, nausea can actually be caused by a wide variety of medical disorders. Some of the medical conditions that cause chronic or severe nausea are gastritis, anxiety, hypoglycemia, Crohn’s Disease, and PTSD. When patients attempt to use medications to treat an illness, it’s very common that the medications themselves can end up being the cause of their nausea. The following illnesses are often treated with medications that can make their patients nauseous: Cancer, Leukemia, Lupus, Lymphoma, and HIV/AIDS, among others.

In some cases, nausea can be treated with over-the-counter antacids but for patients with chronic to severe nausea, these are simply not enough. In some cases, doctors may prescribe a type of medication known as an antiemetic.  There are different types of antiemetics, including Serotonin receptor blockers, dopamine receptor blockers, cholinergic receptor blockers, and histamine receptor blockers. While these types of medications can bring relief for patients, they can often be problematic and present new unwanted side effects. Some of the side effects associated with antiemetic medications include drowsiness, dizziness, headaches, constipation, movement problems, behavioral changes, blurred vision, dry mouth, drowsiness, and confusion.

The effects of medical cannabis on nausea have been studied for decades. As early as 1975, a medical research team published that all of their test subjects found significant relief from their nausea when using THC, which is one of the main chemical components (cannabinoids) found in cannabis. Recently, scientists have also discovered that the cannabinoid CBD also has the same antiemetic properties as THC. In some cases, these cannabinoids have been shown to reduce nausea better than pharmaceutical medications and without any unwanted side effects. Medical cannabis has also been used in synergy with other antiemetic medications with great results. This is especially beneficial for patients struggling with cancer or other critical illnesses whose chronic nausea can become intrusive and unpleasant.

Perhaps one of the best attributes of medical cannabis is how versatile it is when it comes to treating the symptoms of chronic illness. As nausea is often accompanied by other symptoms, for some patients using only medical cannabis is preferable to taking a variety of medications when possible. In addition to easing nausea, cannabis also helps with several related symptoms such as chronic pain, appetite reduction, fatigue, and anxiety. For patients with a chronic illness, their nausea is often also accompanied by vomiting. As a result, patients can have difficulty with appetite which can lead to other medical problems such as malnutrition. Cannabis is known to help stimulate the appetite when a patient may be struggling to eat otherwise. Certain strains of cannabis, such as those classified as sativa strains, can make patients feel energized. Conversely, the strains known as indica can help a patient to relax and get a good night’s sleep. 

Besides strain selection, patients must also choose the correct method of ingestion in order to receive the best results from a medical cannabis protocol. There are a variety of consumption methods and each will provide a different effect so choosing the best method will depend on many factors. The quickest way to use medical cannabis is through inhalation. Though smoking is not advised, using a vaporizer can be a safe way to obtain quick and effective relief. If a patient can wait for a little bit, a tincture can be a wonderful way to medicate. Tinctures begin to take effect much more quickly than edibles, though not as quickly as with a vaporizer. When taking edibles, it’s important to note that in some cases it can exacerbate the symptoms of nausea while waiting for it to work. For this and many other reasons, it is advised that each patient speak with a qualified medical cannabis practitioner before embarking on any medical cannabis protocol.

Further reading:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK532303/

https://www.aafp.org/afp/2004/0301/p1169.html

https://www.nejm.org/doi/pdf/10.1056/NEJM197510162931603

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23902479